Inch by Inch

This is happening row by row. One more border to go and Good Fortune top is done.Do you remember this song? It’s about growing a garden, but the lyrics could just as easily be about growing a quilt.

(Garden Song)

Inch by inch, row by row,

We’re gonna make this garden grow.

All we need is a rake and a hoe and a piece of solid ground. . .

(Quilt version: All we need is a needle and thread and piece of solid fabric . . . “)

Quilters are oftentimes also gardeners. This is no coincidence. We understand that it doesn’t take a Herculean effort to make the gorgeous end products. It only takes a bit of time stitching here, and dropping a row of seeds in the ground there. I spend a minute or two pulling little weeds each time I pass by the garden, and I sew a seam or two each time I pass by the machine. In time, little snippets of effort add up to something big and beautiful.

I’ve heard non-quilters look at a finished quilt and say “Oh I could NEVER do that – how much TIME did it take you?”

Honestly, I didn’t notice any huge chunks of time taken from my life to produce the garden bed or the quilts. They just grew as I caught moments to play in them now and then.

We all have time in common. How we pass the 24 hours we are given each day is our choice. I listened to Leah Day’s recent podcast and the guest spoke about those choices. She said we can either waste, spend, or invest the time we are given.

By the way, Pete Seeger wrote the song, so of course it’s a metaphor. We experience life events that move us in leaps and bounds, but for the most part we live incrementally – in the moments strung together.

Okay, I just googled the lyrics, and learned that Arlo Guthrie co-wrote the song. And the version I knew is different from the original. But these favorite verses are the same:

“Pullin’ weeds and pickin’ stones

We are made of dreams and bones

Need a place to call my own

‘Cause the time is close at hand

Grain for grain, sun and rain

Find my way in nature’s chain

Till my body and my brain

Tell the music of the land”

P.S. I’m reading through Chronicles word by word, so the Bible Sampler Quilt is still inching forward. It’ll be back.

In the Lovely Month of May

I haven’t posted in awhile because I’ve been away travelling, and reading Chronicles. The Bible Sampler Quilt is still in the making, I’ll have a block to share when I reach the book of Esther.

There was discussion this morning on Bonnie Hunter’s quilting board about Mother’s Day/birthday gift hits and misses. I’ll say that the best gift I received from my husband was a bicycle; an electric one so that I can keep up with him. And May is the perfect month to ride bikes. Not too hot, not too cold, everything’s in bloom. I’ve been trying to get a solo ride in every day, and I’ve just come back from one.

The brain is unleashed from the fetters of home when you’re out riding a bike. There’s nothing that can be done back there because you’re too busy flying over the land on two wheels. The imagination can also take flight on a bicycle ride. I spin nostalgic odes to the long-gone neighbors I miss so much as I coast past their houses. I compose the most thoughtful and unusually clever blogposts from the seat of my bike.

I tried to get to the iPad right away to share something of that with you, but I was too slow. And interrupted with a question about the mail. And I have so much to do that I can’t devote too much time to remembering anything right now.

Oh well, I’m sure they weren’t THAT great after all.

So I suppose the purpose of this post, besides checking in after so long an absence, is to encourage you to ride your bike! This cool dry May weather won’t last much longer. As Pa says in The Darling Buds of May, it’s “purfick”.

I’ll also share a quilt photo. So here’s a recent finish; completed just in time for a new arrival. You’ll see that I’ve been influenced by Bonnie Hunter to save my “bonus” HSTs. The other half of the ear units appear as pinwheels below:Fancy Foxes by Elizabeth Hartman

And speaking of bonus triangles, here’s my current WIP: I’m halfway through adding border #2 – the green bonus HSTs – to my Good Fortune quilt.

Just Dropping In

I am still here. I have to report that I am listening to the Bible on YouTube lately. I am not as strong aurally as I am visually, so I’ve listened through 1 and 2 Kings a couple of times each. There are so many kings to keep track of, and I want to make sure I haven’t missed anything. Besides kings, there’s Elijah and Elisha, and Jezebel. Right? Extraordinary and amazing things took place. I know that my goal was to read through the Bible, not complete an in-depth study of each book. But the scriptures are so very rich and laden with layers of significance, I feel like I’m doing a “Bible Lite”. Instead of digging into the word and staying there awhile, I choose to let the quilt blocks propel me forward.

Actually, I don’t have a quilt block to show you today. The next block in the Bible Sampler Quilt comes from the book of Esther. I’ve got both the Chronicles and a couple of books of prophets to read before I arrive at the book of Esther. But I wanted to put up a post, so I’ll show you why I’m listening rather than reading. I hit “pause” on the iPad and snapped this shot:I need my eyes and hands free. I’m not keeping up with the garden stuff very well, so plugging in the headphones allows me to make headway.

Today I’m harvesting some nopales. It occurred to me that this might be of interest to those who don’t live in the semidesert. Do you eat nopalitos? I don’t care for them myself, but I use the greens for my daily green smoothies. Nopales are very good for your blood sugar and digestion. Best of all, it’s surprisingly easy to grow them and process them.

First, you wear thick gloves and cut them from the plant. There are always stickers that embed in your skin, but as a quilter, you’re no rookie when it comes to getting poked. I’ve stacked the cactus pads that I picked on the left. I scrape the spines off with the serrated edge of the knife, and trim around the edges. Those parts fall into the sink where a basket is waiting to take them back out to the yard for compost. The trimmed pads are placed in the sink, waiting to be rinsed and sliced. I let them sit there so the mucilaginous gel can drain awhile before I bag them up.

These bags are ready for the freezer. I stack single serving portions for future use in green smoothies.

While I’m doing this, the plants outside are growing more pads at a rate that will overwhelm me. I’ll be doing this over and over again until my freezer says, “Enough!” So I try to relax and enjoy the fact that I have put up plenty, which will get me through until next spring.

Well, that’s it for now. Next time, I may be posting from the kitchen sink again. There are lots of other things in the yard needing harvesting. I’ll try to listen through each book only once so that we can get on with the quilt blocks.

37. Whirlwind

The next block in the Bible Sampler Quilt is connected with the account of Elijah being taken up into heaven by a chariot of fire. The prophet Elijah had fought the good fight, he had earned his retirement. God had arranged for his successor to be Elisha.

Now the time has come to pass the baton, but Elisha doesn’t want Elijah to leave him. What shoes he would have to fill! God worked amazing deeds through Elijah: He revived a dead child, started and ended droughts, sent down fire from heaven, just to name a few. A hard act to follow for sure.

But right before his eyes, a chariot of fire, drawn by horses of fire appears. Elijah is separated from him, a whirlwind snatches him up, and off he goes to his eternity.

Elisha is alone, the very thing he was hoping to avoid. But it’s a good thing he saw Elijah go, because it fulfilled the final prophecy Elijah spoke: that Elisha would receive a double portion of the spirit Elijah had because he witnessed the event. So Elisha knows he’s really not alone; he’s got the spirit of God in double measure. It comes as no surprise that Elisha goes on to accomplish amazing miracles and deeds.

Whirlwind

I spoke about one of the pitfalls of being a “process” quilter in my previous post. I give you Exhibit A in today’s post. It was so fun to jump in and start without a firm vision of the end product in mind. However, If I had planned well, the colors in this block would be brighter, and there would be no solid fabric used. I need to save the solids because . . . (drumroll, please) . . .

I have decided to complete a Laurie Aaron Hird trilogy of quilts.

For me, it began with the Farmer’s Wife Sampler. I absolutely loved the look of the quilt on the book’s cover, and so I made my fabric choices accordingly. I used reproduction fabrics and kept to the warm tones. I created each block individually, with its own variety of highly contrasting colors. I didn’t think about how the blocks would all look when joined together on the quilt top. It’s lovely, but I realized that my eye preferred some rest, some negative space.

My Farmers Wife Sampler Quilt Top (not quilted yet)

So my next quilt, this Bible Sampler, gave me the opportunity to tone it down a bit. I limited myself to one color per block, with white as my neutral. I can’t wait to see how it looks when I join all the blocks together.

When Laurie Aaron Hird announced her next quilt sampler book on her blog, I immediately knew two things: number one: I would make this quilt, and number two: I would use solids. I don’t know yet if the neutral will be black or white, or some other color. I’ve got plenty of time yet to decide.

Three quilts: all different, yet all connected. Visual evidence of my growth as a quilter. I haven’t yet used only solids as a design choice. I’m already separating them out as I come upon them in my stash. I have plenty. I am so excited.

Now, back to the Bible. I have to respond to the parts I’ve read in between the quilt block passages before I move on. Second Samuel broke my heart. King David had a son, Absalom, that he loved. Their relationship was complex, and it ended badly. Absalom was rebellious, and he died before his father. Isn’t that a parent’s worst nightmare?

I remember when I first held my own firstborn in my arms. My love for her was so beyond what I ever could have imagined. At times, this profound love actually made me shudder. I realized (maybe it was the first time I thought about this) that she held the power to crush me within her tiny body. To realize that someone outside of myself can affect my deepest emotions made me uncomfortable. Then when I was expecting my second baby, I worried that I may not love her as fiercely as the first. Silly me. When she arrived, I learned the true nature of love. It multiplies to infinity and beyond, it has no end, it’s not a fixed substance that has to be sliced like a pizza pie. My third, and then my fourth child were loved as profoundly and as completely as the first.

When Absalom died in battle (leading a rebellion against his father David, by the way) King David was absolutely heartbroken. His advisors actually had to tell him to get a grip, because he had won the battle at the expense of many men who were also sons and husbands and fathers. But I can forgive David his grief. Even though his son didn’t turn out the way he had hoped, he couldn’t turn off his love for Absalom.

36. I Wish

What kind of quilter are you? What’s your favorite part? The plan, the process, or the product?

The planner first analyzes the pattern start to finish, cuts all the pieces at once, then arranges the project in assembly line fashion. There is no hurry and it could be put down and taken up over months or even years. She employs baggies and sticky notes and boxes and bins that keep the pieces regimented in perfect order.

The process quilter gets inspired by something she sees that happens to work with something that’s already in her stash. She jumps right in, cutting up those stash pieces to see how they look. After being pleasantly surprised, she proceeds to the next step, and the next, letting the quilt direct her decisions as it grows. She intentionally has no end in sight to her project. She enjoys lingering in the middle. When she does finally finish; she’s a bit melancholy that the serendipitous surprises have come to an end.

Finally, there is the completer. She begins with the end in mind. She goes to the store with pattern and maybe a coupon firm in hand, and combat shops for the project. She may have a deadline imposed on her, or a group challenge she’s joined. As she pushes pieces under the needle, her mind is pushing ahead to the next step, then the next. The vision of the finished project is the carrot dangling in her head. The thrill comes when she is done-de-done-done. Ta Da!

Of course we aren’t exclusively one type over the others, but I sure can identify with the second one. My favorite part of the process is the part I’m doing just then. Maybe the middle child is most comfortable in the middle of things. Hmmm, this is true of me in all aspects of life. Something to think about. But there are pitfalls that come with this method.

One: the overall vision evolves beyond the initial inspiration. Example: my inspiration for the Bible Sampler Quilt came from Jane Stickles. When pulling from my stash, I purposely chose muted, warm colors with a white neutral. But now as I photograph my blocks and share them with you, I’m finding them to be a bit too muted. It dawned on me that old quilts FADE. Jane’s quilt might very well have been bright and cheerful. I’m intentionally creating a new quilt to look OLD. That’s not good. But at this a point in the process there are no do-overs. I’ll just overcorrect with more color moving forward. Fingers crossed, it’ll balance out and brighten up. Ooh, that’s something to look forward to!

Two: You run out of fabric. What to do? You make do and change the vision. For example, I have three different colored sashings on my Farmers Wife Sampler, and two different cornerstone fabrics. I’m over it, and I know I still won’t plan ahead with yardage in my future projects. The prospect of taking desperate measures to execute a Plan B is too exciting.

I guess there are only two pitfalls, and I can live with them. But if I were to have a do over I would’ve chosen vibrant purples, the color of royalty, for this block. I was going for gold, but the Queen of Sheba deserves much more drama than what I’ve given her.

Queen’s Treasure

I’ve read through both books of Samuel and the first part of Kings. Those are some gnarly periods in history, particularly in the accounts involving women. I repeat from my last post, people are weird. But this account of the Queen of Sheba’s visit to King Solomon is a pleasant one. She had heard through the grapevine that he was exceptionally wise. So she saddles up her camels and brings him the usual: gold, spices, jewels, and so on. She then proceeds to test his reputation. At this point in history Solomon is listening to God, and therefore is blessed with wisdom, virtue and integrity. He’s very popular with his people. She is satisfied and an alliance is formed. But stay tuned, because as I’ve said, people are weird.

35. Heavy Lies the Crown

I’m back, and I’ve completed both books of Samuel. They are hard ones to process. There is a lot of good and bad behavior going on. There are consequential rewards and punishments happening. My finite mind struggles with them, because sometimes it seems as if good behavior is punished and bad is rewarded. Far be it from me (they say this phrase a lot in Samuel’s day) to think I can know the mind of God. Or the motives of men.

I don’t want to go into detail about these two books. They are filled with events that are definitely not p.c. Suffice it to say that people are weird.

Moving on, the quilt block is King David’s Crown

The passage in the Bible Sampler Quilt book recounts the battle of Rabbah. David took the king’s crown right off his head, and placed it on his own. “The weight of it was a talent of gold with the precious stones.” That sounds pretty heavy to me.

The title of my post actually refers to Shakespeare, when he wrote “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown” in Henry IV. I take this to mean that the worries and responsibilities that come with leadership can never be set aside, even in sleep.

But I think King David is able to do just that. For example, even when he had his faithful soldier Uriah killed in order to cover up his goings on with Bathsheba, (and the baby had to die, too) he declared that against God only had he sinned. Whaaat? And at the end of the second book of Samuel, David speaks his last words. He states that he was “blameless before God”, “kept the ways of the Lord”, was “rewarded for his righteousness” had “clean hands” and so on (22:21-25). Whaaat?

Again, far be it from me to find fault in the man that was after God’s own heart. For some reason David is favored by God even after he blows it big time. And David has the chutzpah to walk in the joy of that forgiveness as if it completely wiped away his sinful actions that caused so much pain and suffering to his innocent victims.

Yep, I’m preaching to the choir here, the choir being myself. I think the message embedded in these passages for me today is to realize where God’s favor lies. It isn’t gained by lifestyle, but by love. I am so quick to judge David by his lifestyle, especially when it comes to the women in his life. He is so not politically correct.

But God deals with the heart. He tells Saul that “To obey is better than sacrifice” when Saul keeps trying to force his way into God’s favor through action.

Unlike Saul, King David realizes that it is not what we do for God that earns us favor, it’s recognizing what God does for us.

That’s why King David can dance and sing and declare himself clean before God. He reminds me of the song, “Fields of Grace” by Big Daddy Weave:

https://youtu.be/kfv-1CNomcU

Bullfrogs and Butterflies

I’m departing from the Bible Sampler again to share wonder with you all:

These painted lady butterflies are moving west. They are buffeted by wind and cold. They fly apart from each other, beating the air with iridescent wings. So delicate, so strong. They have graced my home by choosing it for their flight path. They stop to refuel:

They’ve been passing overhead for three days now. Bless their hearts.

I’ve been gardening, and look who was buried in my flowerbed:

I think he was too cold to put up a fuss, but he was able to give me the stink eye:

His eyes were psychedelic. Bless his heart.

Did you listen during these videos? Did you hear the thunderous booms? They are the sounds of freedom, courtesy of the United States Marine Corps.

Bless their hearts.

P.S. Did anyone else think of the Barry McGuire children’s song?